A statistical blip rather than a grim trend is behind a
sudden spike in violent deaths, say police and
There have already been 12 homicide investigations launched
so far this year, and two deaths following alleged assaults.
New Zealand has averaged 49.8 murders annually since 2003,
while in 2011/12 there were just 43.
If the number of homicides continues at its current rate this
year, the rate could top 100 by the year's end.
Homicides include murder and manslaughter cases.
But while police are concerned by the stats and leading
criminologist Dr Greg Newbold accepted it was a "worrying
trend", he doubted it would continue.
"We have had spikes like this in the past," said Dr Newbold,
a University of Canterbury professor.
"Murders tend to be like that. Because we don't have many in
New Zealand, they tend to cluster, and then you have periods
where there aren't many."
A similar spike occurred in August 2009, when 13 murders
occurred in the one month, according to police crime stats.
And it was a brutal start to 2013, with two homicide
investigations launched on New Year's Day alone.
Queensland-based Kiwi Murray Wilkinson, 64, was holidaying at
Waihi Beach when he was killed checking on a late-night
disturbance, while around the same time, Nathan Albert, 27,
fatally stabbed outside a property in Panmure, Auckland.
"The holiday period tends to be associated with high levels
of crime, especially property crime and violent crime," Dr
"People are out more, they drink more, and there's more
domestic violence and more street violence."
Gangs expert and fellow criminologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert
agreed that a long, hot summer could have led to more
But he also preferred to think it was an "unlucky blip",
similar to one in late 2005 when there was a spate of
killings of youths in South Auckland.
"As one cop put it to me, it was about booze and bad luck -
people were falling the wrong way and hitting their head, or
the blade was hitting an artery instead of an arm. It did not
necessarily reflect what was happening on the street."
Murder was often a "very solid indicator" of a state of a
nation, Dr Gilbert said.
Police say they're troubled by the spike in homicides but
expected the numbers to even out throughout the course of the
National Crime Services Manager Detective Superintendent Rod
Drew said it was not uncommon for homicide statistics to vary
from month to month in any given year.
"However, so far this year, there have been more recorded
homicides in the month of January when compared with the same
period in recent years," he said.
"Even one homicide is one too many. Not only do these tragic
events leave families coping with the loss of their loved
one, homicide investigations put a huge strain on our
- Kurt Bayer of APNZ